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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Quotes from Tariq Ali on the ABC's Q &A Monday 4 October, 2010

Tariq Ali
 TARIQ ALI: Well, I think Australia should now grow up and stop being a junior ally, either to Britain - for years it was a junior ally to Britain. Australian Prime Ministers just mimicked the British. Now, they're doing the same as far as the United States is concerned and this is a country now which has lots and lots of young people from many different cultures and nationalities and it should just realise which part of the world it's in and settle down to it. Now, as far as the United States is concerned, you know, it's tempting to agree with you and say there are all these disasters happening. The American economy is on the decline. The war in Iraq has gone bad, the war in Afghanistan is getting even worse, and this is the end of America. It's not as simple as that. It isn't the end of America and it isn't the end of the American military industrial complex and America remains the world's most powerful militarised state, with a military budget that is 10 times more than the six countries after it put together and one just has to be aware of that. It's been written off before and it's also a world hegemony now with no rivals. You know, the notion that China is a serious military, political rival to the states is nonsense. It's an economic rival. That's absolutely true. The European Union isn't a rival so where is the treat to American hegemony coming from? I think it's overrated, this threat, and what will change the United States is not going to be defeats abroad, but what will change the United States is if there are movements of its own people within that country. That is what will bring about organic change so I hate to disappoint you. I wish I could agree with you but I can't.

TONY JONES: Barack Obama's rise to power was considered to be a movement. You've very disillusioned about that.

TARIQ ALI: Well, it was a movement but, you know, and the - what changed in the United States with Obama was not so much there was a big policy shift. In fact he escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What changed was the mood music. It was nicer. Nice smiles all around. Yes, we can. Do what? Change we can believe in. Which direction? You know, so I think a lot of Obama's own supporters are incredibly disappointed at the moment. He is not going to be defeated by the Tea Party or Sarah Palin or that crowd. What could bring him down is the fact that his own supporters, disappointed, decide to stay at home saying, "We tried you. You've let us down and we're not going to vote," and this is what we will probably see in the mid-term elections......................

TONY JONES: Okay. Let's got to Tariq. Could we have foreseen that conventional methods were always doomed to fail with sweeping ideological wars? That was the question.

TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the attack on Iraq planned by the Bush/Cheney Administration had very little to do with Al-Qaeda or terrorism because Al-Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq. One of the things about the Saddam Hussein regime was that it was secular and even harshly secular and very vicious in dealing with extremist religious organisations in its own country. In fact, Al-Qaeda landed up in Iraq together with the US Army, you know, like flies to honey. That is what happened. So the attack on Iraq very little to do with terrorism but just a desire on the part of this administration to remove a government and replace it with something else, which has backfired quite badly. I mean, this is a statistic people don't like hearing in the western world especially but according to medical experts and expeditions, over a million Iraqis have died; five million Iraqi refugees; five and a half million orphans in Iraq; the entire social infrastructure of that country destroyed. Now, naturally, it angers some young people and then they decide to take the law in their own hands and say, "We've got to do something." All the intelligence reports in Britain said that the bombers of July the 7th were fired up by British foreign policy backing Bush and had very little to do with religion as such. So these wars, far from helping solve the problem actually exacerbate it. But having said that, you have to understand that even in a country like Pakistan, which people often say is on the verge of falling into the hand of religious extremists, in every single democratic election in Pakistan religious extremist groups and sometimes even moderate religious groups have won less than six per cent of the vote. The bulk of the country votes for non-religious political parties. So it's worth bearing that in mind, especially given what is going on in that country now with the spillage of the ground war into Pakistan, the drone attacks which Obama has increased; more drone attacks on Pakistan in the last two years than in the previous eight years of the Bush administration. That is the figure. There's flood, which has made 24 million people homeless. It's a nightmare situation in that country so we need the wars to end so people can deal with other things.

TONY JONES: Geoffrey Robertson.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Well, very quickly, I don't worry so much about Al-Qaeda. It's containable. What really worries me is the fact that the policy pursued by the Bush administration was to knock out the two governments that contain Iran and Iran, believe me, it's a question of state terrorism and is infinitely more dangerous when it obtains nuclear power, as it will in a couple of years.

TONY JONES: Geoffrey, military intervention in that case?


TONY JONES: There will be cases made by military people for military intervention.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: There are cases being made at the moment. We should have thought years ago about how to avert this. Sanctions are not working. The prospect of military intervention would be a nightmare and America is too stretched anyway. The Security Council must put this as number one on the agenda. I've done a report on the prison massacres of 1988 where the administration of Iran - everyone still there, apart from the Ayatollah, approved the mass murder of 7000 political prisoners. They just went into the prisons at the end of the Iran/Iraq war and strung everyone up who would not agree with the Guardianship of the Jurist, the strange millennial thinking of this theocratic government. This is the danger. It's brutal. It's merciless. It believes in killing non-believers, the Moharabs, and it is, today, in Evin Prison, executing dissidents as Moharabs, enemies of God. So let us focus on this as the great problem that lies ahead and this is something that the...

TARIQ ALI: Geoffrey, can I just interrupt you on that?


TARIQ ALI: I mean there are problems with Iran. I agree but surely the simplest way to put pressure on Iran not to build nuclear weapons would be for the United States to use its pressure and influence to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone, which is telling the Israelis, "No nuclear weapons for you either."

TONY JONES: Tariq, how would you propose disarming Israel of its nuclear weapons? I mean, seriously.

TARIQ ALI: Well, seriously, by bringing about change in Israel not through any stupid interventions but, if necessary, through boycotts, divestment and sanctions as have been used against other countries with great effect in the past. You can't say to the Iranians, "The Israelis can have them, your neighbours; your neighbours Pakistan can have them; India can have them; US nuclear ships can patrol your seas; China has nuclear weapons but you can't have them." If you use force against Iran in that way you'd simply rally the population around the clerics. That's the problem, so other ways have to be thought of doing this.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes. They have to be found. The first step, I agree with Tariq the first step is to get Israel to admit its nuclear weapons. It's got several hundred, it's believed, but it hasn't admitted it. The problem with that solution is that you cannot rely on Iran. Iran lies and lies and lies. There's Armadinejad last week saying that the 9/11 attack was orchestrated by the American government and the Jews.

TARIQ ALI: Well, unfortunately - I mean I agree with you. He made a nutty speech. But so many Americans I have to argue against when I travel the United States, who believe that, "Tariq, weren't the attacks carried out by ourselves? Didn't we do it?" And I have to argue against American citizens saying, "No, your government didn't actually knock out these two installations. It was Al-Qaeda who have admitted it." So there is this big conspiracy movement and a lot of them went actually and called on Armadinejad and congratulated him......

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